Speed might seem like the goal when executing on a new project, but speed for the sake of speed? Almost certainly not.

Moving quickly might allow you to gain market share and announce to the world that you mean business, but reckless forward motion can undermine your project and necessitate costly damage control.

A few well-placed steps forward at a brisk and sustainable pace might be better in the long run than a flat-out sprint. Alas, there’s no universal rubric for calibrating the appropriate rate of progress, but deciding at the outset how speed is defined on your project is certainly worthwhile.

I’m co-hosting a dinner tonight with Christine Lai and Nikita Mitchell in midtown NYC at 7pm and we have a couple spots left. If you fancy a nice evening with a few ballers, drop me a note.

It’s part of a dinner series for folks from all walks of life to meet and connect and build. I’ve met friends, collaborators and most importantly fellow FSU alums at dinners in the past.

Groups that have previously attended:

You know, your run-of-the-mill overachievers and world-shapers. Dinner will be a break-even ($49) prix-fixe situation at Industry Kitchen. Ping me if you or someone we should know has a slight deficit in the amazing dinner plans department this evening.

Stay balling, friends.

As you are

02/23/2017

The more I grow and heal and cultivate a posture of openness in my life, the more I find myself moved by small gestures of kindness and thoughtfulness. (Back when I was on Facebook, the videos of soldiers coming home and surprising their children at home/school left me emotionally incapacitated in the best way possible.)

I’m feeling a bit under the weather after producing an event yesterday and offered a disclaimer to someone I’m meeting with tomorrow that I won’t be in peak form. He—another straight black male—responded that whatever parts of myself I can muster will be just fine.

The world could use a bit more of this, and I’m grateful for the reminder that interrogating our ideas of what comprises black masculinity is worthwhile. However we want to show up is fine, and there’s nothing wrong with being soft and gentle and open.

Just as importantly…I needed that.

Hack your future

02/07/2017

On Wednesday, February 22nd at 6:00pm, Abernathy is doing an event with Dev Bootcamp in New York City. It’s the Abernathy Black Tech Panel: Destiny, Technology & Empowerment and will feature a panel discussion about how high-demand technology skills, lifelong learning, and investing in education are tools for empowerment.

Dev Bootcamp was the original coding school—or “short-term, immersive developer bootcamp” as it were—and I’m excited to be working with them. Joining me on this panel will be Bie Aweh and Christopher Coles, a career developer with Dev Bootcamp and an alum of the program respectively.

The event is free, doors open at 6pm, and I hope to see you there.

For most savvy marketers with great products and services, it’s the storytelling—not the offering—that needs the most work. Instead of racing to the bottom by competing on price and minutiae, we should tell better stories.

To make an effort is commendable, but deciding ahead of time that something will be done is different.

As I’ve heard it said, if you commit then you only have to decide once.

A quote:

“The future of the negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dark as the future of the country. It is entirely up to the American people whether or not they’re going to try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place place.

Because I’m not a nigger. I am a man. But if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it. And you’ve gotta to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that.”

James Balwdin

Clayton Banks in the Executive Director of Silicon Harlem, and not enough people know about the vital work that he and his team have been doing over the past five years. I’ve gotten to know Clayton over the past few months and I’m always impressed by his humility and influence in the Harlem community.

Over the past couple years, internet kiosks have popped up all over New York City, and there’s an interesting story behind why there are so many of these in Harlem. I sat down with Clayton this evening for the story. Below is an unedited transcript of our conversation.

“So LinkNYC is an initiative that’s being driven by a company called Intersection. And that company negotiated with the city and bid with the city to be able to deploy a gigabit speed outdoor network that is bringing internet to all communities throughout New York City. And in that contemplation, Silicon Harlem and myself and Bruce Lincoln my cofounder were able to testify at City Hall on behalf of LinkNYC. Because LinkNYC of course was in our opinion something needed in East Harlem, Central Harlem, and all throughout Upper Manhattan because many of our residents don’t have high speed. Some of them have zero speed because they don’t have broadband.

So we felt upper manhattan was an important area for these kiosks to be deployed. And typically with technology it’s deployed downtown first and then is slowly works its way up to uptown and the boroughs. By being at the table, by testifying, by getting to know them really well, we actually brought the prototypes of the LinkNYC into Harlem at MIST Harlem at one of our events so that they could get feedback from the community before they deployed. This was in 2015.

So we’ve been at this for a while. They took the time to come uptown to really understand and it was all because we were pushing for it. We really believed in it and when you go to one of these kiosks, it’s the fastest internet connection anywhere, meaning whether it’s your home or your office, your phone, the kiosk, within 200 feet, is the fastest you’ll ever get.

So you fast forward to where we are in 2017, and you look at the complete deployment of LinkNYC kiosks: Upper Manhattan—Harlem in particular—has more kiosks than any other part of New York City. There’s over 100 kiosks deployed in Harlem. Everywhere you walk, you can run into these kiosks—there’s four on Adam Clayton Powell and 125th street. So you’re looking at a real commitment by the city and by Intersection and certainly to some degree Silicon Harlem to ensure that these are available to our community.

Furthermore, they’re starting to use those kiosks to help build community. To help build the pride, build the ongoing culture that resides in Harlem, and what’s wonderful about that is we’ve been able to negotiate with them to put up a Black History Month pictorial of black inventors, famous legendary black leaders on those kiosks. And they’re putting up a new individual every single day. So this is a way to expose our history to millions and millions of people.

And oh by the way, over a million people have registered on those kiosks. When you go to log on to the wifi, you have to put in your email. So when they track that, over a million people have done it. That’s no small thing. So it’s a successful rollout.”

Clayton Banks
Executive Director, Silicon Harlem

Bodies and parts

02/02/2017

I’ve never been to a DMV that filled me with joy, nor have I enjoyed a subway ride that was invigorating or relaxing. This isn’t surprising because those outcomes aren’t the point.

On the other hand, I’ve never left Serengeti in Harlem or Neta in Greenwich Village without a deep sense of gratitude for the experience of life. This is also unsurprising because that is precisely the point.

The good news is that we can infuse our products, meetings and places of work and with more meaning, joy, and delight by optimizing them for our hearts and minds, rather than just our bodies.

My appearance on Lisa Nicole Bell’s podcast last year resulted in Reginauld reaching out about his work in Boston, and offering an introduction to Leora, founder of Boston’s Racial + Economic Activated Dialogue (BREAD). She invited me to be a part of the BREAD Startup Classroom series on January 18th in Boston, and I graciously accepted.

Being back in Boston was significant because when I lived there for nearly a year, I spent precisely no time involved cultural or community work. Life for me was mostly tech, overwhelm, and burnout. By contrast, within an hour of arriving last month, I had both been warmly welcomed and escorted to an African restaurant for Nigerian food with members and partners of the BREAD team. As far as I was concerned, everything else to come would be gravy. Or fufu, as it were.

At the venue later that evening, I was interviewed by The Transformative Culture (formerly Press Pass TV) team before spending time with the attendees and watching months of planning come together. One of the touches I most appreciated was the curated selection of books on sale during the evening. Leonard Egerton of Frugal Bookstore had a table set up with an array of titles I recommended to Leora weeks prior to my arrival.

After a hilariously awkward literal breaking of bread to kick off my talk, I took my seat and shared my story. It was a wide-ranging conversation that covered very little in the way of business, startups, and tech. Instead it was the most in-depth and personal conversation I’ve had about trauma, healing, and my journey.

I devoted the precious time we had to offering as real and transparent a narrative as I could muster, and inviting others to own the parts of our stories that don’t make headlines: the depression, the doubt, the pain, and the discomfort. Because these experiences are universal in the demographic that I seek to empower, and it’s a conversation many shy away from.

What I’ve learned is that my truth—not the thing I think others think I should be saying—is what brings liberation, healing, and even success (whatever that might look like). I hope you too have an opportunity to experience love and support while standing firmly in your unvarnished truth. What a gift.

Photos by Stephanie Ramones of Contigo Photography